Editor’s Note: Eataly Boston no longer has this restaurant as part of their seafood market.
Right before Christmas this year, we were contacted by an old credit card saying we had expiring frequent flyer miles and had to book something NOW! My wife and I totally forgot about these and really don’t have the cash to actually fly somewhere. We decided to do a little staycation for the three of us by booking a few nights at the Marriott Copley Plaza hotel during the Christmas break. Although we seem to be going through a mini–Ice Age here in New England, it was nice and warm in the Prudential Center and Copley Place malls.
I’m not really a mall person, but I do like to check them out now and then. However, the Prudential Center had one place I’ve been wanting to go for a long time: Boston’s version of Eataly – an Italian market/food court first started in Torino and then brought to the US by Mario Batali and the Bastianich family.
Batali’s public persona has taken a huge hit in the wake of the sexual harassment accusations and Joe Bastianich seems to have burned some bridges the last few years, but good food is good food and that’s all I care about. We had lunch at Eataly’s seafood restaurant Il Pesce, conveniently located next to their nice-looking seafood counter.
My wife ordered the swordfish Livornese, which allowed me to compare Eataly’s version of the famous sauce with my own recent attempt at Livornese. At Danielle’s first bite I realized who made it better and it wasn’t me. I tried a bite and I had to agree, the Livornese was similar to mine but the flavors were much deeper. I have a feeling part of that is due to better ingredients like San Marzano canned tomatoes and there is no question that the olives and especially the capers (they were huge) were way better than what I used.
My Fritto Misto however, was no fisherman’s platter with two big shrimp, some small pieces of squid and tiny bits of what was supposed to be swordfish. It didn’t really impress me. I’m pretty sure there was just as much fried cauliflower and Brussel sprouts as seafood. To their credit, it was very tasty, came with a sweet caramello dipping sauce and filled me up, but did not compare to what I can get for fried seafood here in Gloucester for a similar price.
After lunch, which included a few glasses of vermentino, we shopped in the rest of Eataly before heading home. We grabbed some good olive oil, some various pestos and a bag of chestnut-flour trofie pasta to go with it, plus a surprise request from my son.
My 7-year-old boy is not an adventurous eater, but he loves pasta, and surprisingly, pesto. At Eataly’s fresh pasta counter, I was showing him the black pasta made with squid ink. I’ve always been curious about pasta al nero di sepia, but I was always apprehensive about it when traveling through Italy. Well, Marcus says he wants to try it, but I don’t want to pay “city prices” for a pound of pasta we all might hate. I bought a 1/3 pound of fresh squid ink pasta just so we can all have a taste.
After cooking for about 3 minutes the squid-ink fettuccine was done, and we all took a bite. Well, the one positive out of the experience is that the three of us all finally agree on something: We all don’t like squid-ink pasta! My first bite tasted a little salty, but as I was going for another the aftertaste took over and I gave up. My son bravely took a bite and said it was disgusting…but he did take a bite and that is a victory in my book. My wife had the funniest reaction, taking a bite, making a face, then spitting it out in the sink.
Live and learn I guess, and in hindsight I’m glad that I didn’t try pasta al nero di sepia when I was Italy. It’s just not a flavor I like. Even though I was not that impressed with my seafood meal in Eataly, I just love the place as a whole and am looking forward to my next visit.